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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Air Standards, Supreme Court Ruling, EU ETS, Chevron, Keystone Fast-Track

The EPA is retaining the existing secondary National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for NOx and SOx. The agency said that though the standards do not provide adequate protection from harmful deposition-related effects on plants, soil, water and wildlife, levels of NOx and SOx in the air have fallen by more than 50 percent and more than 80 percent since 1980, respectively. The existing secondary standards for NO2 are 0.053 ppm averaged over a year; and for SO2, 0.5 ppm averaged over three hours, once per year, the EPA said.

President Obama has approved a plan to fast-track a 500-mile Keystone XL pipeline southern leg, from Cushing, Okla., to refineries in Port Arthur, Texas. The northern route through the Ogallala Aquifer and Nebraska’s Sandhills remains under intensive review, the Christian Science Monitor reports.

The European Commission said that airlines participating in the EU carbon market will be able to carry forward any unused quotas that allow them to use cheap foreign CO2 credits to offset emissions, a move that will potentially cut the sector’s compliance costs, Point Carbon said.

Meanwhile, a South African proposal to the EU asks for a two-year suspension of Europe’s airline emissions trading scheme to allow time for a global agreement on carbon charges issued through the United Nations. U.S. reps and industry groups from the Middle East and Europe backed the plan as India joined China in blocking participation by its national carriers, Engineering News writes.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that landowners can sue to challenge a federal government compliance order, a decision that sides with corporate groups and puts limits on EPA compliance orders. The opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia sided with an Idaho couple who challenged a 2007 EPA order to restore a wetland they had filled in in order to build a vacation home, Reuters said.

A Brazilian federal prosecutor filed criminal charges against Chevron and drill-rig operator Transocean for a November oil spill off the coast of Rio de Janeiro. Seventeen local executives and employees at Chevron and Transocean also face criminal charges, Reuters said.

The EPA has proposed that companies exporting cathode ray tubes for recycling must give the agency notice at least 60 days before the shipment occurs. The notification must include contact information for the exporter and recycler as well a description of the manner in which the cathode ray tubes will be recycled, Waste & Recycling News said.

Georgia Power has been approved to close two coal-fired units at Plant Branch and an oil unit at Plant Mitchell, but state utility regulators will review how the utility may recoup lost income from customers as part of basic electricity rates, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution said.

The U.K. government said it may adopt an alternative environmental tax to replace revenue from its mandatory Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC), Reuters said. The government also plans to about double its carbon surcharge. The 2014 carbon price support was set at 9.55 pounds ($15.13) a metric ton, up from 4.94 pounds from April 2013, Business Week said.

The Vermont House of Representatives passed a major energy bill to expand Vermont’s use of renewable energy to 75 percent of the state’s total power portfolio by 2032. The Department of Public Service estimates the bill will bring in more than half a billion dollars in capital investment in energy generation projects, according to the Vermont Office of the Speaker.

Liberal Senators unveiled legislation that would require the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to use its emergency powers within 14 days to control speculative trading in energy futures markets. The bill aims to control market speculation that the lawmakers say is responsible for soaring gas prices, The Hill said.

Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has proposed a new scoring method to evaluate the environmental compliance history of gas stations, oil refineries, construction sites and other potential sources of pollution. The new scores would lower the number of sites with a failing compliance history from about 1,600 sites, under the current compliance rules, to about 890 sites, the Austin American-Statesman said.

Valero Energy Corp. said that EPA environmental regulation hampers the company’s expansion within the U.S.  The company also said that different policy directions at the state and federal level make investment planning difficult, Fuel Fix reports.

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